2020 began like any other year ... then Zoom entered our lives. At first (let’s say March 15), we all thought it was novel and we were intrigued. When April hit, we started to think, “Will I ever get out of my professional-looking, button-down shirt paired with my comfiest sweatpants?” Once May came, we longed for our office commutes and classroom routines. We were Zoomed out.
Along the way, we learned a lot about navigating our new digital world.
Start with a Waterfall
The most dreaded part of Zoom is that awkward silence at the start of the meeting — you know, when you are waiting for everyone to be admitted from the waiting room. There’s a sea of faces staring back at you (if you are the host). At EMA, we started using a chat waterfall to break the ice. We stole the idea from another Zoom meeting with another company, but it is worth the steal. To start a chat waterfall, explain how to post in the chat window; then, ask your favorite question and have attendees post their answers in the chat. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? What’s your favorite color? What are you watching right now on Netflix? You will see a literal chat waterfall before your eyes. It’s a fun way to start the meeting and get folks to feel comfortable and at ease.
Mute Your Way to Serenity
Never allow your participants to enter the meeting unmuted. An unmuted meeting creates chaos and opens us all up for embarrassing moments. The calm silence when you enter a meeting sets the tone for the rest of the hour. Additionally, this gives the host fodder when the meeting is first starting — to explain the mute button functionality and allows for a quick Zoom etiquette review in the first moments of the meeting. Tip: As host, you can mute and unmute participants as needed. You can easily see all unmuted participants by clicking on the participant button at bottom of your Zoom window.
Don’t Be Afraid of Rosie
Rosie is my English bulldog and anyone who has ever Zoomed with me has experienced Rosie in some fashion. Whether it’s her exacerbated snoring or her infamous bark at the Fed-Ex man or her spoiled whining for a head rub, Rosie is a minefield. You never know what she will do next to interrupt my meeting. Rosie is a metaphor, of course. She is your barking dog, your crying baby, your buzzing cell phone, your loud teenager, your street cleaner or your construction worker outside your window. My point is this: distractions and interruptions are present in everyone’s environment. Some are more disruptive than others and that’s OK. Most everyone has grown to adore Rosie’s snoring. While utterly embarrassing to me, my colleagues will laugh and say they are even comforted by her snoring. Zoom has taught us, especially since March, that we all have lives and our lives are sometimes part of our Zooms and that’s more than OK. Tip: Mute yourself after you explain what the distraction is. We all can relate! Your mute button is on the bottom left of your screen or top right of your picture.
Let Me See Your Face!
And I don’t mean your mugshot when your camera is off. I get it, we need to eat lunch, take a restroom break, and tend to our Rosies, but whenever possible, turn on your camera. People like to see each other. We need that connection now more than ever. Tip: Bottom Left of your zoom window has two icons — one for your camera and one for your mic.
Lights, Camera, Zoom!
Position your camera to be eye level with your face and make sure you have good lighting (natural if possible) in front of your face. I have my laptop raised up about 7 inches above my desk, which puts my camera right at my eye level. Additionally, I have the camera positioned just in front of a window. Tip: I place my laptop on top of my printer for height. Hardcover, thick books work too!
Screen Share Is Good; Gallery Is Great
I’ve learned that sharing your screen is needed and helpful, but not all the time. It’s nice to switch back and forth, especially if you have dialogue during your meeting. People like to see each other and not look at a powerpoint or a slide for an hour. If you are screensharing, change your screen (slide) often. People tend to bore quickly if left to look at the same slide for too long. Tip: To toggle between gallery and speaker view, you can find the button on the top right of the zoom window.
Breakout or Break Loose
Breakout rooms have great potential and can often be a game-changer in your meeting. Not only does it allow for small group discussion and activity, it allows for a diversion from the large-room lecture feel. At the same time, you have to choose your breakouts carefully. Too often, I have witnessed a large drop in participants when we move to breakouts later in the meeting. I would advise breakouts earlier in the meeting. People are more likely to stay in the meeting longer if the breakout is early in the session, especially if the main room return will review the breakout topics and discussion. Tip: Only the host can organize the breakout rooms and this is a big job. Having another person to lead the meeting during this time is helpful for the host. Instructions for building breakout rooms here.
Zoom, like COVID-19, is not going anywhere soon, so I hope these tips and tricks are helpful to you as you navigate through this turbulent time. Happy Zooming and remember — don’t be afraid of Rosie.